Depending on whether you are coming to Thailand to work or for a holiday there are a number of different visa options. A complete detailed list of every visa option would be far too long to post here so instead I will post tips on getting the 5 most common visas.
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What is the difference between the Visa on Arrival and the Visa Exempt stamp?
These two are often confused but are basically the same thing. If you are coming to Thailand for tourist purposes and hold a citizenship from 48 specific countries you do not need to get a visa in advance and you can show up at the border and receive either a stamp that allows you to stay for either 15 or 30 days depending on if you show up at a land crossing or at an international airport.
The visa on arrival is the same thing but available for citizens of 19 different countries. You also must have 2 recent photographs and pay a 1000 Baht fee. The full list of countries can be found on the Thai Immigration website.
A tourist visa obtained from a Royal Thai embassy or consulate, preferably in a Western country or your home country, is your best option if you wish to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time, but do not qualify for a Non-immigrant visa of either type.
It is best to obtain a tourist visa in your home country and are available in single, double or multiple entries. Each entry is good for 60 days and that can be extended for a further 30 days at the immigration office for a 1900 baht fee. So in theory entry can be good for 90 days at which time if you had a multiple entry visa you would have to leave the country to activate your second entry.
Due to the large number of expats who permanently live in thailand on mutple entry tourist visa the Thai embassies in surrounding SE Asian countries have announced a crack down on back to back tourist visas. If your passport shows too many tourist visas you will receive a red stamp and may be denied another tourist visa.
A tourist visa run to a neighbouring country like Laos or Malaysia is a relatively straight forward procedure. It’s easy to be concerned that your passport will be the one that gets singles out for further inspection but the truth is the Thai consulates deal with hundreds if not thousands every day and your’s is just another book to stamp.
Many of the businesses operating around the immigration offices are very familiar with the procedure. Whether you need photocopies, pictures or additional paperwork I have found that many of the small businesses around the immigration offices are very well equipped to help you with your paperwork.
The non-b visa is also called the work visa as you will need this visa to either work for a Thai company or if you wish to start a business in Thailand. Even though this is referred to as a work visa this visa alone does not allow you to work in Thailand. You will still need to obtain a work permit after you have arrived in Thailand.
Typically you will be issued a 3 month non-b visa and once you are in Thailand and have secured a work permit from your employer you can apply for a 1 year extension. Some countries do issue multiple entry 1 year non-b visas so check with your consulate first.
Once you have your non-b and you are in Thailand you must apply for a work permit. The work permit is tied to your current employment and if that employment is terminated you need to apply for a new work permit.
Apparently it is possible to switch from a tourist visa to a non-b visa should you find work here in Thailand but I’ve heard the paperwork is an extensive process. For all non-b visas and work permits I would highly recommend the services of a Thai attorney.
The education visa is not obtained if you are coming to Thailand to teach, for that since you are working you actually need the non-b visa. The edu visa is designed for people wishing to study in Thailand at an government accredited school.
Can I sign up for a language school and just not show up?
The edu visa is issued in 90 day segments and there is a minimum attendance required and every 90 days you will need a report from the school that you are still attending. If you fail to report in 90 days your visa is terminated.
Can I get an edu visa from a muay thai/diving school/cooking school?
It depends on the school, you and which government official you are dealing with at the time. Generally Thai immigration favours the large universities but remember that the immigration officers can interpret the rules any way they see fit. Your best option is to check if the school is able to get your a 1 year visa or a 3 month visa.
The regulations for a marriage visa vary from country to country so it is best advised to seek legal counsel. The general requirement is that you must be officially married to a Thai national, not a village ceremony but an actual wedding, and have a combined income of 40000 baht. Initially you will apply for a Non-O visa and once you are married this can be extended for a 1 year marriage visa. A prenup is a good idea before tying the knot.
To retire in Thailand you have to be over the age of 50 and have on deposit in a Thai bank the sum of 800000 baht or a monthly income of 65000 or some combination there of. You will need a police records check as well as a health check. Apply for a non-o in your home country and once in Thailand you will be given a retirement extension of stay. Your extension of stay is good for 1 year but should you wish to leave the country during that year you will need to apply for a re-entry permit, failure to do so will invalidate your extension of stay and your retirement visa.
The Thai immigration rules and regulations can be overwhelming to the first time visiter. However there are many sources of help available to you and keep in mind every expat who lives here has gone through the same process as you. From immigration law firms to expat message boards there is a wealth of information available in helping you choose the correct visa.
www.thaivisa.com – The largest expat forum in Thailand. Lots of good advise but lots of BS as well. Read with caution.
www.thailand-visa.net – A good resource for simple quick information on the different Thai visas. Check out the free live chat if you need further help.
www.sunbeltasia.com – One of the largest business law firms in Thailand. If you doing any type of business in Thailand I highly recommend the team at Sunbelt Asia.